Title: The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Set against the backdrop of North Dakota’s oil boom, two very different mothers form an uneasy alliance to find their missing sons in this heartrending and suspenseful novel from the Edgar Award–nominated author of Garden of Stones.
The booming North Dakota oil business is spawning “man camps,” shantytowns full of men hired to work on the rigs, in towns without enough housing to accommodate them. In such twilight spaces, it’s easy for a person to vanish. And when two young men in their first year on the job disappear without a trace, only their mothers believe there’s hope of finding them. Despite reassurances that the police are on the case, the two women think the oil company is covering up the disappearances—and maybe something more.
Colleen, used to her decorous life in a wealthy Massachusetts suburb, is determined to find her son. And hard-bitten Shay, from the wrong side of the California tracks, is the only person in town even willing to deal with her—because she’s on the same mission. Overtaxed by worry, exhaustion, and fear, these two unlikely partners question each other’s methods and motivations, but must work together against the town of strangers if they want any chance of finding their lost boys. But what they uncover could destroy them both…
Sure to please fans of Sandra Brown and Gillian Flynn, The Missing Place is a moving chronicle of survival, determination, and powerful bonds forged in the face of adversity.
The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield is an utterly heart-wrenching mystery that is so compelling, I found it impossible to put down. The novel is a starkly honest portrayal of two very different women who are united in their search for their adult sons who have inexplicably vanished from a remote North Dakota town. Set against the backdrop of brutal winter, their investigation uncovers disturbing information about the oil company both men work for but yields very few clues about their sons’ whereabouts.
The only thing that Colleen Carroll and Shay Capparelli have in common is their missing sons. Colleen is wealthy, uptight and married and she and her husband have given their son Paul every advantage that money can buy. Shay is a laid back single mom, devoted to her children and while money is scarce, she provided her kids a happy, stable life. Shay is quick to anger and she often acts before she thinks. Colleen is completely out of her depth, but her ability to smooth over difficult situations is particularly useful during their investigation.
Shay’s son, Taylor is outgoing, friendly and well-liked. Despite Taylor’s move to North Dakota, the two remain very close and they talk almost daily. In sharp contrast, Colleen’s son Paul is shy and quiet but he has a bit of a troubling past. His relationship with his parents is volatile and Paul shares very little information with them. Despite these differences, Taylor and Paul are close friends and their disappearance on the same day certainly seems to indicate foul play.
Colleen and Shay reluctantly join forces to search for their sons and they are immediately stonewalled by the local authorities and Hunter-Cole Energy, the oil company that employs Paul and Taylor. Their progress is slow and while they uncover alarming information about unsafe working conditions, workplace accidents and outright corruption, it is impossible for them to link the oil company to the disappearances. Further clouding their investigation is the discovery of Hunter-Cole’s unfair land leases on the nearby reservation, but again, Colleen and Shay are frustrated by the tribe’s unwillingness to discuss their sons’ disappearances.
As a mom with a son the same age as the missing men in The Missing Place, I can completely relate to Shay and Colleen’s frantic need to do whatever it takes to find their children. As someone who has lived in a small isolated town far from most modern conveniences, I think Sophie Littlefield does an excellent job of capturing not just the loneliness but the desperation to escape an area with limited resources. And since I have lived in areas with similar weather, I can safely say Ms. Littlefield’s depiction of the harsh winter conditions is incredibly accurate. This close attention to detail greatly enriches the overall story, and brings the entire novel vibrantly to life.
The Missing Place is an incredibly complex and intriguing novel with a well-developed and diverse set of characters. The mystery surrounding the boys’ disappearance is captivating and the novel does not end once the truth is finally revealed. Sophie Littlefield provides readers with a glimpse of what happens after the key players return to their regular lives. While the loose ends are mostly wrapped up, everything is not all pretty and perfect but the conclusion to the story is realistic and true to the characters and their various relationships.